The event is being held under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. Celebrating its millennium anniversary in 2010, Yaroslavl has become a meeting place for heads of states and ministers, authoritative politicians, representatives of the business community, scientists, scholars and experts in various fields from around the world.
Russian experts are expected to make some sensational suggestions, e.g., improving relations with the US and Europe, joining NATO, creating special conditions for businesses and offering benefits to foreign specialists who come to work in Russia.
What does Russia want to offer the West and why is it likely to accept this aid? One of the forum participants, political analyst Maksim Shevchenko, answers these questions in this exclusive interview:
This is the second time in the past two years that Russia is organizing the Global Policy Forum, quite a costly event, especially considering the global crisis. Why does Russia do that?
Maksim Shevchenko: Russian elites want to demonstrate that they are ready to integrate into the so-called civilized world and that they are capable of creating and discussing the modern agenda in the language of the so-called world democracy. The Russian elite are sending a message concerning the kind of modernization they want to implement in order to live by the rules of the club they want to join. This forum will clarify the rules the West is playing by, and Russia wants to show the West that it accepts those rules.
What does Russia want to offer the world?
Maksim Shevchenko: Firstly, since Russia is still the largest country on Earth and owns one-third of the world’s resources, Russia can offer its participation in the global security system as an equal partner. It sends a signal to the West saying that we can take full responsibility for Eurasia in the spirit of total co-operation with Western elites.
Secondly, Russia wants to have a reliable partner among consumers of energy resources and to join the club as the leader of the global natural gas market. Russia wants to show that it’s not a backward country run by a tyrant, but rather a proper democracy capable of playing by Western rules and of being a normal market player abiding by the standards of, primarily, the United States and Western Europe. That’s the main thing that Russia has to offer today. And this offer is addressed to the West.
Many experts predict that, looking for a remedy against the next wave of the crisis, the United States may start a new war close to Russian borders. How can Russia ensure its security?
Maksim Shevchenko: There’s only one way Russian elites can ensure their security, that is, by joining this war on the side of the West. Today’s Russian elite considers alliances with other parties besides the West as a losing strategy. They think that whoever dares to go against the West will inevitably fail. So Russia wants to get on the ship called the Big West and sail to the shining city on a hill, from the foot of which flaming chaos will spread throughout the world.
Crises are quite manageable. The Russian elite want to be with those who manage the crisis, not with those against whom the crisis is used as an economic weapon.
One of the forum’s key ideas is that of a fair world. What does this concept imply?
Maksim Shevchenko: Speaking of a fair world, Russia’s political class means that it wants its share of the global pie. They want to be full-fledged players on the world financial and economic market. They don’t want to be a third-world country helping the West prosper. They want to be a part of the West. They’d rather to be a remote eastern province of the West than the leader of the East. That’s their choice. When they speak of a fair world, they mean that the West should recognize them and give them a fair share of the world’s benefits.
What can Russia offer, realistically, in exchange for those benefits of prosperity?
Maksim Shevchenko: Even the prosperous West is quite afraid of the coming developments. Russia is the only country that has the experience of overcoming difficulties and surviving on its own. You can’t imagine a more devastating crisis than the one Russia experienced in 1991 – and yet Russia survived. Modern Western nations don’t have the experience of overcoming such calamities.
Whether the Western elite admit it or not, the fact remains: Russia survived, and that was a real miracle. The Russian people overcame that catastrophe, even though they were betrayed by the ruling class and left to fend for themselves by all international structures and clubs. Many prosperous countries may need such experience soon, unless they want to return to barbarity for good. Russia survived as a nation despite two terrible fratricidal Chechen wars and despite the fact that its science, industry, social systems and agriculture were totally destroyed. And today, when discussing the future, the world once again has to listen to the voice of Russia.
A proposal to join NATO will be voiced at the forum. Do you think it’s realistic or provocative?
Maksim Shevchenko: There’s no need for Russia to join NATO. That would be a demonstration of Russia’s readiness to co-operate with what the rest of the world calls the world’s policeman. NATO is a symbol of the golden billion’s unity, a symbol of the Big West. Russia is not particularly interested in joining NATO, and NATO is not interested in seeing it there. If Russia were to join NATO, this would create problems for NATO more than anybody else.
According to Gallup, Russia is still one of the world’s most popular countries. And now Russia wants to side with the United States, the least popular country. Why should Russia put its international reputation at risk?
Maksim Shevchenko: How Russia can remain popular with the Chinese, Indians, Palestinians, Cubans and so forth is something that the Russian elite should think about. Today’s elite believe that PR campaigns and marketing are the best way to win other countries’ affection. And they think affection matters only if it makes you rich. Yes, the United States is unpopular but its dollars, jeans, cola and Hollywood films generate profit, whereas the affection of poor countries won’t make you rich. That’s why Russian elites think it is more important to win the favor of the world’s leading powers. They spend an enormous amount of money to improve Russia’s image abroad – so far, to no avail. As for poor nations, ruling elites don’t care if Russia is popular among them or not.
The forum takes place against the background of a natural disaster in Pakistan. Many experts are puzzled by the indifference of the international community. Why do you think it’s so?
Maksim Shevchenko: Pakistan is a problem for the West. It has a strong, mobilized Islamic community that knows how to fight. It didn’t bow to the US. The Pakistani army and intelligence service are opposed to US plans. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, advanced technology and a space program. The West picked India as its main ally in the region, and Pakistan is India’s chief rival. That’s why the West is in no rush to help Pakistan. The West is cynically waiting for this strong nation to be overcome by catastrophes, epidemics and economic collapse. A weakened Pakistan will not be able to compete against India. International clubs have chosen this line of behavior deliberately; they are not simply caught by surprise or exhausted. The West offers aid if somebody can steal something or profit from this aid. Western politicians aren’t altruistic.
Except for left-wing activists, nobody in the West will ever move a finger to save ordinary people. Global politics and global security are not about helping mankind. It is about the Big West’s absolute domination based on military and economic supremacy. No matter what the West says, it doesn’t want Africa and Asia to reach the same level of development.
In this situation, the Russian elite have made their choice. They don’t want to be with the poor and the persecuted, i.e., with today’s Asia and Africa, as the Russian national character requires. They prefer to side with the West, which is what the Russian elite have dreamed about for the past 300 years, except during the Soviet period.
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